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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


Gustav MAHLER (1860-1911)
Symphony No. 7
Orquesta Filharmonica de Gran Canaria
Adrian Leaper
Recorded 21 & 26-30 June 1995, El Cebadal, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria
ARTE NOVA 74321 30475 2 [79.25]

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Many recordings of Mahler's 7th Symphony span two CDs and cost in excess of 20. This one is on a single disc costing less than 5. With acceptable orchestral playing and recording quality it is therefore worthy of serious consideration, either as an indulgent extra recording for the curious enthusiast, or for anyone wanting to acquire this great symphony at minimal cost.

Adrian Leaper is an experienced conductor, as he was back in 1995 when this recording was made. Too little used by orchestras in Britain, he has carved a successful career in Europe with many acclaimed recordings to his credit. He clearly knows and loves the music of Mahler, since he generally chooses appropriate tempi and phrases the music with loving care for details of expression. For there is no question but that this is a well paced and idiomatic performance of a work which does not always receive its just desserts in the Mahler canon. Some of the music is as distinctive as Mahler ever conceived. For example, as the first movement develops there is a gloriously noble pastoral evocation, which Leaper allows due prominence and indulgence, even if the lustre of the Gran Canaria strings cannot match that of some of their more famous competitors (the Concertgebouw Orchestra under Bernard Haitink on Philips are splendid in this music).

The second movement scherzo is strongly shaped by Leaper, and the solo horn who sets the tone does so with considerable aplomb. Perhaps the central scherzo movement might have gained from more rhythmic bite; and the slow movement which follows as the fourth in the sequence might have gathered more romantic ardour. But no matter, since this performance remains committed and worthwhile.

The Rondo finale is always a tricky challenge to performers of this symphony, and tempo relationships are notoriously difficult to balance. Leaper paces the music well, though from the beginning the individual sections of the orchestra are somewhat under characterised in comparison with the best of the competition (try, for example Rafael Kubelik with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra on DG). The production is perfectly acceptable as far as the general presentation and the richness of sound quality are concerned, though the latter is certainly not in the demonstration class. The booklet contents are thin and a little disappointing, though it has to be stressed once again that the performance is not. In short, this is well worth the modest outlay involved.

Terry Barfoot

 


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